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Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies

Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies (photo)

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One of my favorite pieces we’ve ever done here on IFC.com was our Halloween 2009 list: “The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies.” It featured great writing from critics like Matt Zoller Seitz, Sam Adams and others, and it was just a great topic. Arguably, the scary scenes in supposedly non-scary movies are more terrifying than the ones in horror movies because they catch us off-guard. You pay for “The Exorcist,” you know what you’re in for. You pay for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” you think you’re in for an old-fashioned adventure until Nazis’ faces start melting all over the place.

Our original list from 2009 holds up, but in the past two years there have been some new, unforgettably scary moments in non-horror movies. So in honor of Halloween 2011, here is an update. We typically like including YouTube videos in this sort of list, but these are recent movies so they’re not always readily available; we improvised as best we could.

The Furnace Scene
from “Toy Story 3”
Directed by Lee Unkrich

Years after year of mature entertainments have given Pixar the well-deserved reputation as a studio that makes family films for both children and adults, but “Toy Story 3” was so dark it turned adults into children: screaming, crying, begging-for-Mommy-style babies. In one of the most disquieting representations of the inevitable end maybe ever, destiny leads the toys into a giant trash furnace where, with no escape possible, they accept their fate, lock hands, and wait for death. It looks like it’s all over but the melting. Luckily for the toys, things worked out okay thanks to a last minute deus ex machina; unluckily for plenty of people in the audience — myself included — they remained just a wee bit scarred for life. Scariest of all? After all that time at the trash dump, kids start playing with these toys again. Just think of all the germs! Pixar’s going to have to call the next movie in the franchise “Toy Story 4: Contagion 2.” Blech.


Three Serial Killers Walk Into a Car…
from “I Saw the Devil”
Directed by Kim Ji-woon

Technically “I Saw the Devil” is a thriller or a cat-and-mouse chase movie, but it has more scares than a lot of “real” horror movies. It opens like a horror movie too, with a young woman savagely murdered on a deserted road in her broken-down car. But then the woman’s fiancé, a super-badass secret agent, decides to get even with the monster who killed his lover by turning himself into a monster; for the rest of the film, the two battle it out an increasingly gruesome series of encounters. Escaping from one of their fights, Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) manages to hitch a ride which, by sheer coincidence, is being driven by a couple more deranged killers. After a brief stand-off, that leads to this terrifying and dizzying scene, as Kyung-chul wildly stabs at the other two guys while the car careens off the road. The real horror here is the blood; not so much the amount of it but the way it seems to be spraying unpredictably in every direction, even on the camera lens, which suggests that the messy frenzy was too much even for the cinematographer to handle. If “I Saw the Devil” isn’t technically a horror movie, scenes like this one prove it is definitively a movie about horror.


“Is This Gonna Be Our Time?”
from “Winter’s Bone”
Directed by Debra Granik

A cop pulls over a man and a young woman in a pickup trick. The man never gets out of the truck, never even turns his head to look at the police officer; he just tightens his grip on the shotgun between his legs and speaks to the cop through the side view mirror. After a few terse, tense words, Teardrop (John Hawkes, in a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination) brings his weapon into view and evenly says “Is this gonna be our time?” The cop backs off. As this scene shows, facing down a man who isn’t afraid of death can be just as scary as facing down death itself.

To watch this scene on YouTube, click here. Below is embedded another scene from “Winter’s Bone” featuring more super-intense acting from John Hawkes.



Home Invasion
From “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Directed by Sean Durkin

Another amazingly tense scene featuring actor John Hawkes. In this one from the still-in-theaters “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Hawkes and his cult have invaded a random home when the robbery is interrupted by the homeowner. Hawkes’ Patrick doesn’t want to hurt anyone (or so he says), but he also can’t let anyone know about his group or their crime spree, which creates a dilemma. Hawkes is not a traditionally scary screen presence. He’s not a big, physically imposing dude; as you can see in the scene below, he’s actually shorter than the guy he’s scaring the shit out of. So why does he make this list twice? Because he’s so good at playing characters who never lose their cool, even when they should. There’s something really unsettling about the way Patrick and Teardrop never raise their voice and never gets upset. In other words, it’s not that John Hawkes looks all that intimidating. It’s that John Hawkes never looks intimidated.



The Motel Double Cross
from “Drive”
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Like “I Saw the Devil,” “Drive” is a hybrid, and I swear I’m not saying that to make a cheap car joke (at least not on purpose). It begins as a straight heist movie, becomes a character study, then turns to the crime genre again before exploding — literally exploding — with so much gore that it begins to look like a slasher movie. Again, it’s the unexpectedness of that sudden shift into violence that makes it particularly effective. The most disturbing sequence comes just after Ryan Gosling’s Driver has been double crossed by the guy who hired him to participate in a pawn shop robbery. Just as he realizes the scope of the conspiracy, shotgun wielding goons arrive to finish the job. In the interest of preserving said surprise I’ll leave things there, except to say after watching “Drive” you’ll never look at Christina Hendricks in “Mad Men” the same way again.

You can see brief glimpses of the motel sequence in the red band trailer for the film, embedded below:


What’s your favorite scary moment in a non-horror movie? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.